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Macaroni and Cheese Casserole

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Served hot and bubbly, my Southern-style homemade Macaroni and Cheese Casserole is loaded with chunks of tender rotisserie chicken and green, leafy collard greens in a rich and creamy cheese sauce. Not your run-of-the-mill mac and cheese, this bold and delicious casserole ranks among the very BEST in comfort food.

a serving of macaroni and cheese casserole on a white plate

Macaroni and Cheese Casserole {with chicken and collard greens}

Yes, I’m from the South, but I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually cooked — or eaten, for that matter — collard greens. I know, it’s a staple Southern food, right?

The problem is that as a kid the smell of greens cooking for hours (to break down the tough ribs) was almost nauseating to me. It smelled like sulfur! Because of that, I steered away. That is until a couple of years ago I decided to include them in my New Year’s Day feast and learned that I actually LIKED them. I like them a lot.

Unlike my grandmother, I remove the tough ribs before cooking collard greens and they cook much faster and don’t emit that pungent smell. Collard greens are vitamin-rich and are a good source of calcium, too. That’s a good reason to find ways to include them in everyday cooking (not just as an accompaniment to my New Year’s black-eyed peas!).

Anyway, my last box of organic vegetables from Misfits Market included a bunch of beautiful big collard green leaves. That’s when I decided to toss them into my Macaroni and Cheese Casserole. The result was a most pleasant and tasty surprise.

TIP: I’ve really enjoyed my Misfits Market subscription and the weekly delivery of fresh, organic vegetables right to my front porch. If you’d like to check them out, use this code (COOKWME-BT9GRE) to get 25% off your first order.

ingredients for macaroni and cheese casserole

How do you make macaroni and cheese from scratch?

Once you make macaroni and cheese from scratch, the boxed kind can never measure up again. Here’s how I make my macaroni and cheese casserole.

  1. Prep the collard greens. Rinse and dry the leaves, then cut out the thick stems (or ribs). Roughly chop the greens into 2 inch pieces.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook dry elbow macaroni and the collard greens together until the pasta is tender.
  3. Make the cheese sauce. Make a roux from melted butter and flour, then slowly add milk until you have a thick sauce. Remove it from the heat and stir in seasonings and shredded cheese until melted.
  4. Drain the macaroni and collard greens, then combine with the cheese sauce and stir in shredded rotisserie chicken.
  5. Place in a lightly greased casserole dish and top with breadcrumbs, then bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, until the casserole is hot and bubbly.
macaroni cheese casserole with chicken and collard greens

What else can you add to macaroni and cheese?

If collard greens are not available to you, there are plenty of other green vegetables that can be substituted. Adding veggies to macaroni and cheese is one good way to entice the kiddos to try something new. Here are a few other suggestions:

  • Broccoli — use fresh or chopped, frozen broccoli
  • Kale — cut out the thick ribs and roughly chop
  • Baby spinach — a great source of iron
  • Swiss chard — no need to remove the stems
macaroni and cheese casserole in a white baking dish with a wooden spoon

Can macaroni and cheese be made ahead of time?

This macaroni and cheese casserole can be assembled and baked at a later time if needed. To do this, assemble the casserole, but don’t add the breadcrumb topping. Cover and refrigerate until ready to bake, or freeze for up to a month. When you’re ready to finish the casserole, add the breadcrumb topping and bake, increasing the time by about 10 minutes.

How do you reheat macaroni and cheese?

To reheat the leftovers, place a serving of macaroni and cheese on a microwave-safe plate and sprinkle with a tablespoon or two of milk. Heat for 45 seconds, then stir. Continue heating at 20 second increments until the desired temperature.

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Yield: 8 servings

Macaroni and Cheese Casserole with Chicken and Collard Greens

macaroni cheese casserole with chicken and collard greens

Macaroni and Cheese Casserole is loaded with chunks of tender rotisserie chicken and green, leafy collard greens in a rich and creamy cheese sauce made with three kinds of cheese.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped collard greens
  • 3 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup Gruyere cheese
  • 2 cups rotisserie chicken, shredded
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a 9x13 inch casserole dish with cooking spray.
  2. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot. Add the macaroni, collard greens, and 2 teaspoons salt. Continue boiling until the macaroni is tender, about 10 minutes.
  3. While the pasta and greens are cooking, melt 4 tablespoons butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk to combine; cook for about 1 minute.
  4. Slowly add the milk, stirring constantly and cook until the sauce is thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the chili powder, black pepper, and 1 teaspoon salt. Add the cheddar and Gruyere cheese, stirring until melted.
  5. Use a colander to drain the macaroni and greens, then return to the pot. Gently stir in the chicken and cheese sauce. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish.
  6. In a small bowl, mix together the panko breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the casserole.
  7. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbly. If desired, place under the broiler for a couple of minutes to brown the top. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Notes

This macaroni and cheese casserole can be assembled and baked at a later time if needed. To do this, assemble the casserole, but don't add the breadcrumb topping. Cover and refrigerate until ready to bake, or freeze for up to a month. When you're ready to finish the casserole, add the breadcrumb topping and bake, increasing the time by about 10 minutes.

To reheat the leftovers, place a serving of macaroni and cheese on a microwave-safe plate and sprinkle with a tablespoon or two of milk. Heat for 45 seconds, then stir. Continue heating at 20 second increments until the desired temperature.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

8

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 506Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 126mgSodium: 1439mgCarbohydrates: 26gFiber: 5gSugar: 1gProtein: 35g

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